Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Riddle

Every day I call my mom in Memphis and in the process of catching up, she always asks for a joke.  I have had to buy joke books and search the Internet for appropriate ones (after all, she is my mother!) and in the process have stumbled across a few great riddles too.

My latest riddle is this:  You have 2 coins that add up to 30 cents.  One is NOT a nickel.  What 2 coins do you have?

The answer is simple and obscure at the same time.    Just think about it.

The answer is....

A quarter and a nickel.   

"What?!" you say indignantly.  "I thought you said one was NOT a nickel!"  

That's right - a quarter is not a nickel.  Feel free to hit your head on something.

This riddle encompasses everything about how we think.  The riddle says "One is not a nickel," but we hear/read this:  "Neither one is a nickel."  Big difference.

Countless books have been written about "thinking outside the box."  (Believe me, I'm a e-book addict and I know.)  The box is what we are handed in life.  We assume the answers are inside, and we assume the person who handed us the box, indeed the person who describes to us what is in the box, has our best interests at heart.  Not always the case.  Sometimes our brain is required to interpret. And our brain, though remarkably intricate, is not infallible, as it is filled with false assumptions, prejudices, ideas that are less than truthful, and, yes, is skewed to hear what we want to hear.

Riddles like this can turn your thinking upside down and inside out.  It makes you question everything you think you know, because we interpret and assume so many ideas based on what we think we have heard/read.  Each new day brings a new opportunity to think again, twist an idea, try out an experiment, see things from a different point of view, and challenge our assumptions.  As they say, statistics can lie, depending on who is using them.

The next time you hear something that someone asserts is "fact," stop and think.  It may indeed be fact, but, on the other hand, you may be hearing "Neither one is a nickel" and your mind is led down the garden path of assumption.  And from personal experience, I know it's an easy, mindless walk, but in the end leads to nowhere very interesting.